Commission hears concerns with Great Plains Utilities water line grant application

By Joshua Scheer, reporter,

(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commission on Tuesday, Jan. 15 approved a Community Development Block Grant Application for a water line loop project by Great Plain Utilities.

A public hearing on the project was held on Jan. 8, and no members of the public attended.

Great Plains Utilities’s Pat Moss presented an expanded project cost from what was talked about in a late November meeting. The construction of the 10-inch line plus non-construction costs is estimated to total more than $500,000.

Engineer Travis Brocke explained that the scope hasn’t changed, just the extent of the work. Previously a river crossing hadn’t been factored in as well as better figures on the costs of the line, he said. For more information on the project see this story.

Wyoming Business Council’s Roger Bower said on Jan. 8 that the public hearing would need to be re-scheduled due to the changes. He noted that the trouble the utility will have in getting the grant is they have to prove that it benefits not just a few neighborhoods, but works for the greater good as well.

On Jan. 15, Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnesberger said he felt the copy of the utility’s application he saw was “by no means complete.”

He had concerns with how the grant, if approved, would be administered. He suggested possibly using an independent third party overseeing the work before the county funneled the grant money to the utility.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman asked what was different between this project and a similar one where the county worked with Idea Inc. in Riverton. No intermediary was used in that situation. She said the only difference she could see was that it was tribal entity.

Deputy Treasurer Jim Massman agreed that it wasn’t different. “I think that’s a good point,” Harnesberger said.

He went on to suggest that if the grant is approved, the county and the utility sit down to work out how the administering of the grant would be done.

Commission Chairman Doug Thompson agreed that Harnesberger’s concerns about lack of information in the application were valid and that they could possibly be addressed in the public hearing.